A Brief History of Cheese
Did you know cheese is older than even writing?
Did you know cheese is older than even writing?
The oldest evidence — from some 3,500 years ago — for humans ingesting nutmeg has been detected on pottery sherds from Pulau Ay in the Banda Islands in Indonesia. It remains unclear whether neolithic humans were using nutmeg for its fruit, as a spice to flavor food, or for medicinal purposes.
The Hittite Empire held sway over much of Anatolia and modern Syria between ~1600 BCE and 1100 BCE. They are credited with starting the Iron Age in the Mediterranean region, and being the first in the region to use chariots for warfare. And now, they may be credited with inventing the smiley face!
A ceramic jug, dating to about 1,700 BCE, was found during excavations at the Hittite city of Karkemish along the border of Turkey and Syria. When it was pieced back together, archaeologists were surprised to see a smiley face smiling back at them. It was used for drinking sherbet, a sweet drink commonly enjoyed in the Middle East as a dessert. Which supports the marks being a smile. With no other examples of such marks from that period, however, interpretations must be made cautiously.
Genetic studies of 10,000-year-old Cheddar Man recently revealed that he had black hair, and dark brown to black skin. Not what many people expected. Cheddar Man was discovered in 1903 at the entrance to Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, in Somerset, England. He is the most complete skeleton to survive from the period when hunter-gatherers were starting to migrate to Britain at a time when it was still connected to the Eurasian landmass. Meaning Cheddar Man suggests that ancient hunter-gatherers in Europe were darker, too.
How, then, did northern Europeans end up with pale skin? It has been suggested that it was the switch from hunter-gatherer to farmer. The Mesolithic diet, rich in fish and meat, provides adequate amounts of vitamin D to live; when prehistoric Europeans switched to a Neolithic, farmer's diet based on one or two cereals, they lost all that dietary vitamin D. Why is this related to skin pigmentation? Vitamin D can also be produced by the reaction of pheomelanin in the skin with sunlight. People can manufacture their own vitamin D! People with fairer skin have the highest levels of pheomelanin, whereas darker-skinned people have higher levels of eumelanin pigment, which acts as a natural sunblock. Natural selection on hunter-gatherers favored darker skin. Natural selection on farmers favored lighter skin.
Gold was probably the first metal to be exploited in the Andes, by the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. From there, the archaeological record suggests goldworking then traveled north, reaching Central America in the first centuries CE, and Mexico by about 1000 CE.
This particular necklace is from the Chavin Civilization, which developed in the northern Andean highlands of Peru from about 900 BCE to about 200 BCE. That sounds old, but relatively speaking, that is not old at all. Gold had already been mined and worked in the Andes for a thousand years when the Chavin arrived on the scene.
I just think its beautiful and wanted to share. Made of gold with lapis lazuli, it was probably worn by Ramesses II (reigned circa 1279-1213 BCE). It had a hinge allowing to easily be taken off. And it was decorated with a pair of ducks' heads, because gold and lapis lazuli aren't fancy enough for a pharaoh.
A unique ancient grave was found in a tomb in Tombos, in what is today Sudan. A chariot-pulling horse was buried around 1000 to 900 BCE, about 2.5 meters underground, in an ornate burial usually reserved for high-status humans. The horse's remains still had patches of chestnut hair with white markings. A piece of iron -- incidentally, one of the oldest found in Africa -- and a carved scarab beetle were found in the grave, indicating the horse's high status.
In the ancient world, textiles were a valuable commodity, because every piece of cloth had to be made by hand. Clothing was important economically. Early Bronze Age Linear B tablets from the Aegean Sea document the careful attention given to managing textile production, and on the other side of the globe, the Incan Empire levied tribute in textiles. Unfortunately, clothing and the cloth they are made form tend not to survive in the archaeological record. They often have to be studied indirectly, by examining the scraps of textile that survive in the extremes of arid or waterlogged conditions, and comparing the scraps to visual or sculptural records of clothing. Recent frozen discoveries from the retreating glaciers of the Alps offer new insight into ancient Greek and ancient Roman textiles.
Iron Age Italians seem to have favored a weave known as a twill. When colors are used, they will create neat diagonal patterns (most notably in the modern tweed). Currently, the earliest known examples of twills are from Hallstatt in Austria. The Italians likely shared textile production preferences with their northern European neighbors, placing the Romans firmly in the European textile tradition.
In Greece, a form of weave known as a tabby was the most popular. It is considered the simplest type of textile available, when in purest form: horizontal and vertical threads repeatedly pass over and under each other. The ancient Greeks favored a particular type of tabby, however, where the horizontal threads were beaten into the weave so hard that the vertical strands become near-invisible. It is perfect for bold blocks of color, and can make more varied designs than just diagonals; such a technique has been used to produce spectacular tapestries and Turkish carpets. Early examples of this tabby have been found in ancient Ur, in Iraq, and in Turkey. Twill weaves have notably not been found in ancient Greece or in the ancient Near East. That situates the Greeks in the Eastern textile tradition, relatively uninfluenced by their northwestern neighbors.
By looking at their textiles, then, we can tell that Iron Age Italy and ancient Greece were culturally in two different spheres. Italy took after its European neighbors, while Greece took after the Near East. They were a small example of the wider break between East and West.
Researchers sequencing the genomes of four individuals, who were buried together in an Upper Paleolithic site in Sungir, Russia, were surprised to discover the four were not close -- at least genetically. That's particularly surprising because of the remains were children, buried in head-to-head in the same grave. Yet they could not have been closer than second cousins. The humans living in Sungir about 34,000 years ago seem to have known about the dangers of inbreeding. Or suspected. To avoid them, they appear to have sought partners outside their immediate family, using wide social and mating networks.
From the time of the Old Kingdom until famous Cleopatra, pharaohs of Egypt had five names. The first one was his own, given at birth. The other four were bestowed when he ascended the throne.
Two of the names were introduced by titles which stressed the rule of the king over the two lands, upper and lower, which had been united. "He of the Sedge and the Bee" referenced the sedge plant emblem of the southern Nile Valley, and the bee emblem of the northern delta. "He of the Two Ladies" referred to the two goddesses thought to protect the pharaoh, Nekhbet and Wadjet, who just so happened to have principle cult centers in the south and north, respectively.
The last two names were introduced by titles which focused on the divinity of the king: "Horus" and "Golden Horus." Yes, that's the same god twice. No one said they were creative.
This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!
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